I have been an avid Twitter user for about two years now. When I first starting using it, I really wasn’t sure how it could benefit me in an educational way. In fact, I don’t think I was even considering using it as a vehicle for professional development. Nor did I envision that I would actually meet face-to-face with some of the folks I had met on Twitter! That was in May of 2008.
I don’t remember using it a lot in the first few months for anything productive at all. It was only after I went to a summer conference for our state music education association that I realized the potential of the medium. I don’t remember a specific point at which this happened, but around this same time I began to become more interested in educational technology. I also slowly began to realize that there were a lot of educators out there using Twitter as a personal professional development tool.
For me, Twitter has become one of the single most important professional development tools. Because I am not a “core subject” teacher, much of the professional development provided by my school district does not immediately relate to me. Twitter helps me to fill that gap and allows me to stay informed on the latest developments in educational technology and music education. Through Twitter, I have constant 24/7 contact with a wonderful group of educators from around the world who are always willing to share information and encouragement. It is like having a teachers lounge with you at all times where you can share ideas with your colleagues and get immediate feedback.
What I love about using Twitter is that I can use it any time, anywhere. I may have just tried something new in class that went really well. After class, I may tweet about it and share it with my Twitter PLN. Maybe the new concept didn’t go so well. So, I may tweet about it and get instant feedback from my PLN with suggestions and tips. Sometimes, I may just have a question about how other teachers present a given topic. I can tweet about that and instantly receive many ideas!
Aside from the outstanding professional resource that Twitter has been for me, it has also been a really wonderful personal social networking tool! I have made friends with several folks on Twitter, and we keep in touch regularly through the medium, even though we may live thousands of miles away. We talk about our families and children, work, vacations, frustrations, and successes! I have even been lucky enough to meet some of my Twitter friends in person at conferences and workshops. There is really something special about meeting someone in person that you have only known online first. When you meet them for them first time, it is like meeting up with an old friend!
Over the last few years, I have really fallen in love with Twitter. I use it every day, and have grown so much as a person and an educator because I have a wonderful network of professionals and friends that I can be in touch with constantly. For me, it truly is one of the best professional development tools I have ever used!
I found the following video over at Shelly Terrell’s blog (teacherbootcamp.edublogs.org), and thought it was so good, that I wanted to share it here. With her permission, here is a video that she created for her PLN video project. I have included her narrative as well. I think this is a powerful message – Enjoy!
Passion, a funny creature…..
Perhaps, you will understand what passion does to you? It makes you do crazy things like poor your heart and soul into ambitious tasks. I love what I am doing and I may only persuade less than 10 teachers this year to gain a PLN, but in my mind that is 10 more who will persuade maybe another 10 more. I believe in starting movements even if they are small in nature, because a ripple can have an enormous impact. I have been fortunate that many of you have helped transform my ripples into incredible endeavors. First, over 1200 educators followed the 30 Goals Challenge and shared your experiences. Then I received over 60 video clip entries in less than a week on this PLN video project that is continuously evolving. I will continue to make more videos so please do not feel your entry will not be included. If you send one, I will make it part of the project. Perhaps, a video series that we can each decide to share with our schools?
My first trip to the annual PETE&C Conference in Hershey, PA was an absolutely wonderful experience! I don’t know that I have ever felt so invigorated after attending an educational conference, not even PMEA. Perhaps this is due to the fact that it is a new and exciting area of education for me. Maybe it’s just because it is different than music. I’m not sure.
I was in my element! I loved that, at every session I went to, at least 10-15 other people there were getting out their laptops or mobile devices and either taking notes or live blogging the sessions. I did take a stab at covering some of the sessions through Cover It Live, and I found that to be an awesome way to not only take notes for myself later, but to also provide an insight for some folks that weren’t able to attend in person. I intend on using Cover It Live a lot more in the near future!
I tweeted about it earlier, and in some ways, I do believe this conference was a life-changing experience for me. I am typically a shy person, and I have mentioned before that I feel that social media is helping me to become more comfortable in certain situations…like when I am around a bunch of people I don’t know. Well, I put myself in the middle of that situation on purpose this year and volunteered to work as a docent in the Social Networking Lounge. This was great for me, as I got to meet so many wonderful people that I have only known through Twitter. As I “worked my shift” in the lounge, I could tell that I was becoming more comfortable with interacting with new people…what an awesome feeling!
The concurrent sessions at the conference were awesome, and I even got to meet and talk to Sir Ken Robinson when he signed my copy of “The Element!” I’m really looking forward to reading it! I will definitely return to Pete&C in the future!
I am the quiet observer type. But, I have found that using social media outlets, especially Twitter, has made it much easier for me to communicate with my colleagues, and especially people that I am just meeting for the first time. I find it easier to have meaningful discussions with new acquaintances.
Here are my personal observations. 1. I am more comfortable and confident holding conversations with colleagues & new acquaintances. 2. While holding these conversations, I feel that my thoughts are more succinct and clear. 3. I actually feel like I can communicate more effectively to my students. 4. I am no longer reserved about sharing my thoughts and comments with people who I hardly know.
I know there is a lot of talk, especially in education circles, about the use of social media by students. Some fear that using these online communication methods are somehow destroying students’ abilities to communicate effectively and properly “in the real world.”
My question would be this. Why then, have I found that my communications skills have improved? Is it simply because I previously learned proper social interaction before this whole social media thing happened? Or, has social media actually influenced the way I communicate?
I have always been a shy person, but I would no longer put myself in that category. Perhaps writing this blog has helped, too. Maybe through writing this blog and using twitter, I have realized that “putting my thoughts out there” isn’t a bad thing. In fact, maybe it’s a good thing…a really good thing. I have learned so much and had such great conversation with other educators and professionals through these social media outlets.
I don’t know that I can draw any conclusions about young people, but I know that these outlets have helped me to communicate more effectively and more comfortably. Just food for thought.
UPDATE – After taking Joe PIsano’s great advice, I checked out TextMarks a little more closely. I could not find any specific information on their site regarding the ads they send with their messages, but I have realized that the ramifications of these ads going to students may not be good. So, at this point, I have put this project on hold, and am continuing to search for a service that will do this for free with no ads at all. If anyone can point me in the right direction, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I think this could be a really powerful communication tool!
After attending the PMEA Summer Conference this year, I starting thinking a lot more about how I could integrate technology into my band program. More specifically even, I started thinking about how I could use technology on my students’ level. It is clear to me that many students use text messaging as an important method of communication. So, I started wondering if there was a way for students to subscribe to a band text message alert service for my program.
After many hours of searching the net, and failed attempts to use many different services, I finally found what I’m looking for in TextMarks. This service allows the students to text the word “sharonband” to a specific number, and then they can receive any alerts that I post as the manager. This service also gives me the ability to either allow or disallow the subscribers to send a message to all other members of the group. I have disabled this feature, as I only want students to be able to receive messages.
As far as posting messages to the subscribers, I can either do this from my mobile device or from the web. This service allows me to use 120 of the 160 text characters, as I believe the rest are reserved for short advertisements. (That’s how they keep it free.)
This is very exciting to me. I notice how much students use text messaging, and I think it is just another great way that we can “meet students on their level” and keep them informed of the important information that we need to pass on to them.
I can foresee this being useful to any teacher that wants the ability to reach out to their students “outside of the school walls.”
Check it out, and let me know if you would consider using this with your students! I can’t wait to get this going with my students and report back later on how it is working!